What in the world is happening to Ravindra Jadeja?

The CSK captain has struggled for rhythm
The CSK captain has struggled for rhythm
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Shashwat Kumar

Prior to IPL 2022, when Ravindra Jadeja was handed over the reins at the Chennai Super Kings, many expected him to fit into the role like a glove. Akin to MS Dhoni, he has been a long-serving cricketer for the franchise. From a personal standpoint, too, had been playing as well as he had ever done in his career.

CSK were also defending champions, meaning that they had some fond memories to look back on. They fared relatively well at the auction too. While they weren’t able to buy back some of their in-demand former players, they seemed to have done just enough to acquire replacements capable of playing their part.

But then, Jadeja’s captaincy boat starting creaking. In the opening game of the IPL, CSK slipped to 61/5 inside 11 overs. Jadeja had Dhoni for company but the former could only crawl his way to 26* off 28 balls – even as the latter rewound the clock and powered CSK to a respectable total. The Kolkata Knight Riders chased down that total comfortably, raising question marks over how the pair had approached their essay.

A couple of games later, the CSK skipper failed to trouble the scorers (against the Punjab Kings) as his side crumbled to another defeat. Against RCB, his team emerged victorious but Jadeja couldn’t get off the mark again. In between, there have been a couple of knocks (against the Gujarat Titans and the Sunrisers Hyderabad) where the all-rounder has looked close to his best, especially in the death overs.

But when that is put into perspective alongside a rather puzzling essay against the Punjab Kings at the Wankhede Stadium, it becomes increasingly clear that something is plaguing arguably the best all-rounder in the world.

Before being anointed captain of CSK, Jadeja had very little experience of that particular gig. The last time he had done so was during his U-19 Saurashtra days. So, it was quite a step up. Not just because he had to fill massive boots, but also because the pressure of captaining an IPL outfit is vastly different from skippering an age-group side.

At the start, it felt as if the all-rounder was relying too much on Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo’s tactical nous. The veterans often set fields and devised plans with whoever was bowling. As the tournament has progressed, Jadeja has assumed more responsibility and has been orchestrating whatever CSK have been doing on the field.

In that pursuit, though, he seems to have lost a bit of himself – his innate qualities that made him standout as a match-winner regularly. CSK’s tough initiation to IPL 2022 hasn’t made things easier. On the flip side, Jadeja’s struggles have only amplified those problems.

Over the past couple of years, the all-rounder has cast himself as one of the best finishers in the IPL. In that same period, Dhoni’s stock has waned considerably, meaning that Jadeja has often taken up the mantle and succeeded in getting CSK across the line.

Ravindra Jadeja has huffed and puffed in the death overs

In 2020, the left-handed batter struck at 216.98 in the death overs, frequently putting bowlers to the sword and dominating with his array of strokes. In 2021, when he had to negotiate a few tricky terrains, he struck at a slightly lower strike rate, although a SR of 190 shouldn’t really be scoffed at.

This season, Jadeja has laboured towards the end of an innings, and has only batted at a strike rate of 168.85 – a significant drop considering this is usually where he takes games away from the opposition. He has also been dismissed thrice already, averaging only 34.33 as opposed to 57.5 and 47.5 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Simply put, Jadeja is neither scoring the requisite runs at the death, nor is he remaining unbeaten enough to make up for a sluggish start. If anything, his mind has seemed cluttered and he has seemed someone completely out of his depth. It’s almost as if he has forgot what made him crack the T20 code, which considering how marvellous he was in the T20I series against Sri Lanka in March, is a bitter pill to swallow.

With the ball, too, has he been lacklustre. He has only picked 5 wickets in 8 games at an average of 42.6 and a strike rate of 31.2. He has also conceded more than 8 runs per over on an average, and has bowled just 156 balls across these eight fixtures, often under-bowling himself.

Off the bat, it seems that captaincy is weighing him down a touch. While he has all the support and the resources to acclimatize himself, the pressure knowing that the buck almost always stops at you, could be slightly unnerving.

He has also been involved in a couple of hairy moments when running between the wickets. It led to Ambati Rayudu’s run-out in their opener, and has only hinted that Jadeja maybe has too many things on his mind to not concentrate fully on the task at hand.

Even the great Virat Kohli couldn’t lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore to the play-offs in his first full season as captain, despite having AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Zaheer Khan at his disposal. So, in many ways, this teething period has been along expected lines. But herein lies the catch too.

While many pre-empted Jadeja to stutter and stumble as skipper, not many envisioned his personal form to dip to such an extent that people are questioning if the 2020 and 2021 iterations were a fluke.

MOST OVERRATED T20 CRICKETER EVER RAVINDRA JADEJA :-SR of 124 playing T20i since 2009-SR 127 playing IPL since 2008-Regularly smacked by batsman for terrible bowling-0 50s in T20i- 8 sixes in T20i whole career- 2 fluke seasons with the bat 2020-21 MASSIVELY OVERRATED👎👎

It's very easy to jump onto that bandwagon, considering the all-rounder has been a pale shadow of himself, at best. But Jadeja never does things the easy way. It took him nearly 10 years to realise his true potential as a genuine Test all-rounder, after all.

Hence, he has precedent to fall back on. And, chances are that he will ultimately find a method that works as captain and doesn’t compromise whatever he brings to the fore as an individual. From a more urgent perspective, it might not really help CSK’s cause and it might lead to a few moans and groans too. It might even make you question what in the world is really happening to Jadeja.

In the long-term, though, he will do just fine. Of course, only if he is backed, trusted and given the belief that he can turn things around. With CSK renowned for those traits, it seems only a matter of months before Jadeja cracks the T20 code for the second time in as many years – this time, as a captain who can single-handedly win games of cricket for his team.

Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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